Alien Robot Autopsy: Part 2

I hadn’t had Vaughn carry the robots all the way to League HQ. A tornado isn’t exactly subtle. More to the point, it’s not exactly a mode of transportation that can carry a couple robots to HQ without giving anyone a hint that we’re there.

That’s why I told Vaughn to drop the two robots in an open field off the side of the highway. I don’t know if anyone owned it. Brown grass lay on the ground, a thin layer of snow covering it.

Whatever the case, I’d flown off in the Rocket suit, and brought each of them into the jet’s cargo bay. I also had the Jet give them a quick scan to see if they were really dead.

They were–or alternately they were good enough at faking it that the jet couldn’t tell.

I typed a question into a message program I used to communicate with the jet. “Can you read their files?”

[I hesitate to directly connect with them in case they’ve been booby-trapped, but you will find a kit that your grandfather used for accessing the same information on the shelf behind you.]

I turned toward the shelf. It was one among many–a grey metal structure with several shelves held tools and equipment for the jet, much of it completely unrecognizable.

After a few minutes of discussion, I figured out which item the jet meant.

When I got it out of the bag, I found a gleaming, blue metal object shaped roughly like a cube, but composed of a tube that been twisted into that shape. A black and white 80’s laptop screen had been attached to it. I wasn’t sure how at first, but then i realized it had been done with glue.

I looked for wires connecting the screen to the device and couldn’t find anything.

I couldn’t find a keyboard either.

After some looking, I did find an on/off switch, but only on the screen. Hopefully it applied to the device it was attached to too.

I flipped the switch, and the metal warmed in my hands, molding to them. At the same time, I felt a mental connection. Crap. Another alien AI?

After a few seconds worth of connection, I doubted it. If it were an AI it was very stupid or very limited.

Deciding that no matter how weird this was, I might as well try it, I carried it closer to the nearest robot. Words began to appear on the screen.

Identified: Light Ground Attack Unit
Clan: Spinward Searchers for Knowledge Valued

Surely that wasn’t the best possible translation. I felt no response from the machine. Maybe it was.

If so, I never wanted to meet a “Heavy Ground Attack Unit.” The light ones had come close enough to killing us already.

More words appeared on the screen in black and white, blocky letters.

1. Repair damaged sections.
2. Wipe robot’s AI.
3. Wipe robot’s AI and replace with default.
4. Replace robot AI with friendly AI (tricky)
5. Scan AI memory (damaged only).
6. Search AI memory(damaged only).
7. More

Looking over it, I was pretty sure Grandpa had written that menu, and that whatever the device originally did, he’d modified it. He might not even have understood it, but had managed to find some functions he’d needed and figured out a way to make the machine perform them on demand.

I’d never seen a manual for this device, and even after poking around, I couldn’t find a help menu.

It all spoke of a hack job that he’d made in the middle of things and never expected to need again.

I considered whether I should try anything given how little I knew about the possible consequences.

Then I chose number 5, or tried to. I considered tapping the screen, but decided it wouldn’t work. I followed that up by trying the obvious–thinking the number five.

[Scan Starting]
0%… 10%… 20%… 50%… 70%… 90%… 100%…

AI related programming and memory has been damaged irreparably. It appears to have been self-inflicted.

I stared at the screen. So I was fighting the robotic equivalent of suicide bombers? They nuked their own possibly salvageable personalities to keep this secret? I supposed that death might be a little different for the machine races. They could hypothetically put a subset of their own consciousness into a device, give it a mission, and it wouldn’t be like sending someone off on a suicide mission.

The original would still be alive after all, so it’s not really death. It was more like how Jenny created copies of herself.

It didn’t mean it wasn’t annoying though. Seriously, this had been a really good lead too.

After a few minutes of frustrated mental rambling, the obvious thought occurred to me–try the other one.

In an ideal world, that would have led to me blowing the whole thing open right there. In my actual world, I found myself staring at the same result a second time.

Now what was I going to do?

I put down my grandfather’s weird, hybrid device, and left it on the shelf, staring at the floor.

Finding no answers in the concrete, I turned toward the TV. The credits were rolling on Baz’ show. They rolled against a background of the FBI stopping at the spot where we’d fought, and taking away the remaining robots.

Maybe that was good news. Isaac Lim might allow me to look them over, but probably only if I agreed to share everything with the Feds.

From what I’d seen of them, that wasn’t a terrible possibility, but it still didn’t make me happy.

I decided to focus on what I knew. I knew we’d been attacked by members of a machine race clan. That meant that they were involved somehow. It might even mean that they were somehow behind it all.

I wasn’t sure about their motive though. I could imagine why they might want to kill Haley and I as revenge, but what motivation did they have to kill off everybody. I supposed that if they needed natural resources, we had them, but so did unpopulated asteroids and planets in all likelihood.

There wasn’t any reason to go to a big populated planet, and try to kill everybody. No, the reason that someone had bothered to try that had to be political or personal–which I’d already guessed.

I shut the TV off—well, I was about to.

Then the news came on, the SuperTV news that is.

The announcer appeared to be in his twenties, and wore a suit like every other network news reporter ever, but his eyes were wide, and his voice seemed louder than necessary.

“Breaking news! A bunch of flying robots just like ones we saw on Baz Wilson’s show appeared in the Ukraine, and after a short but decisive battle, they killed several aliens that appeared to live in some kind of small colony.”

The picture on the screen showed a grassy field. In the middle of it stood several buildings that reminded me most of barns. They were burning, and aliens that I didn’t even recognize stood outside in powered armor and carrying guns.

A few appeared to be catlike–pointed ears, long tails and fur. Others were reptilian.

More disturbing were the aliens that I did recognize.

In the middle of the shot were a pile of dead Hrnnna, all of them burned with what looked like lasers.

Maybe I’d been looking at this the wrong way? Maybe I shouldn’t have been asking who wanted to destroy humanity. Maybe I needed to ask who wanted to kill the Hrnnna?

13 thoughts on “Alien Robot Autopsy: Part 2”

  1. And we’re back–hopefully with enough stuff that the brief hiatus is a distant memory. Whatever the case, you may be amused to know that I wrote this update entirely on my iPad. I bought a keyboard and it turns out to be basically comfortable to work on for long periods.

    I still can’t use it for everything that I’d used a laptop or desktop for, but it’s closer than i’d have originally suspected.

    Oh, and feel free to vote Legion up on Top Web Fiction. It can’t hurt.

  2. What is these robo dudes’ beef? Why can’t they ever just leave us organics alone? What did we ever do to them, or more accurately, what did the organics in this web serial ever do to them? I think they need some anger management. Bombs and lasers are NOT a solution to every problem. Their robo-mothers should have raised them to know better.

  3. Wiping a planet to get a single colony might seem radical when worded like that, but it’s really just a question of cost-benefit analysis. Manufacturing the devices needed and handing them to local savages may well be easier than finding your target, and if a bunch of other organics die as collateral damage, well, who cares?

  4. With a list of options like that who would be able to resist “7. more”?

    Spinward Searchers for Knowledge Valued doesn’t sound too psychotic. It sounds more like a bunch of scientists or maybe spies. Either the machines like misleading names or there has to be more than one group involved.

  5. I would look for someone willing to kill humanity to get to the Hrnnna. But really, perhaps the Hrnnna where killed only because they talked to the heroes.

  6. Unless someone considers the Hrnnna as a major pollution of the holy gene pool that was left upon Earth, it seems to much to wipe everyone out just for a few colonies.

    Unless the Hrnnna are considered worse than the abominators by whoever is doing it.

  7. My last vote just tied for 4th! (couldn’t resist)

    Well what about the feline aliens? Maybe the Hrnna just make easier targets in laser battles? Definitely should talk to the others, I’m thinking.

    And “More”?! Explore!

  8. Well, it’s not like the machines care about the world itself. So yeah, a plan to extinct the whole place would be preferable than having to transport planetary assault forces and initiate subterfuge against a myriad of local governments with varying tech levels or a full-on open planetary assault that would see the entire world rise up to fight them. Heck, even if you bring in a ship and just fire on the areas with the colonies you don’t like, you have to defend the ship itself from people defending the planet and they’ll come after you even if you succeed and try to leave.

    As for the Spinward Searchers thing, they sound like a robot version of the Whirling Dervishes. Now that’s how you name a religious sect.

    And I see Nick having to take a trick from my book. Some of us don’t need a machine to allow us to interface with robots.

    And, Cultist, not every robot is around to destroy all humans. Some just want to blend in with the Japanese:

    While others just want to thrill you:

  9. @Gecko, you are psycho, and your immensely entertaining comments have me head over heels for you. I know that sounds quite standard, but I’m usually lying on my bed when I read my stories with my heals level to my head or even over if I do that thing people do when on their bellies and they flex their knees. You know what I mean. Anyway, I would like to say thank you for every one of your writings and video links that have ever brought me joy. You can’t hear me at the moment, and I don’t want to wake people up (its late/early hereabouts). This text will have to suffice. Thank you.

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